Thursday, July 14, 2011

More on Daily Five

Ok. Now, I don't like to fly and so I'm starting to sweat a little about my upcoming flight to NYC on Saturday... what better way to stop thinking about it then to blog! :)

So, yesterday I asked what things you would like me to blog about before my trip and this was one that was posted:
*"...more information on how you organize your mini-lessons for Daily 5 would be great or on what you do in your small groups and how you plan those lessons."

Organizing mini-lessons:

My daily mini-lessons are: phonics, comprehension, grammar.

To plan for them, I check whatever the lesson is in my basal and work on how to make the "essence" of that lesson shorter and more engaging. For the phonics round, I use the program "The Phonics Dance", which I got funded on Donor's Choose last year. If you don't know about it, you need to check it out. It is an interactive program where "hunks and chunks" are taught to students through rhythm and repetition. It helps students focus on chunking words and not just isolating individual sounds when they come to an unfamiliar word... and their spelling...! It improved greatly!

As I explained in the Daily Five post earlier, the comprehension comes from the basal and we do whatever the skill is, but I don't necessarily teach it the way the book does. Because I teach two grade-levels, the challenge is covering the skills in both grade-levels so that my class gets the same message as the other 1st and 2nd graders in my school. But we have a lot of freedom as professionals in my building, which I greatly appreciate! So, I am allowed to deviate from "Treasures" as long as I am giving an education that is consistent with people who are not deviating.

Last, is grammar and that is through lots of interactive writing and games. We do lots of Mad-libs too! I also cover grammar during our shared writing at morning meeting. Maybe that will be my next post... I changed how I did the shared writing part this year and it became much more effective. At the end of the year, my kids recognized all sort of "grammar finds" that we wrote during our writing.

Teaching guided reading in small groups:

This is where my judgement as an educator comes in to play. I still run "leveled" groups where we work out of the same story together, even though CAFE does not advocate for that. I feel like it is still important to have groups that are structured that way, in addition to doing individual conferences and more strategy based conference sessions too.

So, last year I ran 5 reading groups. Two of them were 1st grade groups that had on-level 1st graders. We used the guided reading lessons in "Treasures". We read the leveled readers, did the automaticity flip charts, and would always touch on the comprehension skill we were working on too. These groups sometimes, but rarely, did a workbook page or two while with me at our group.

My next group was a mix of high 1st and on-level 2nd graders. This group did the regular 2nd grade lessons that were supposed to be whole class. They did not need the easier leveled readers. We did lots of talking about reading and expanding vocabulary work through the regular lessons in the basal.

Finally, I had two groups of very high 2nd graders. One was four girls and the other had five boys. We did author, genre, and novel studies. These groups were done more like literature circles. We would all have the same chapter book. I often read to them while they followed along and then they would have an assignment to complete prior to our next meeting- like read the next chapter, make a list of character traits, or write a response to a given question. Then when we came back together, we would discuss their assignment, maybe read together or I would read to them, more discussion, and a new assignment would be given.

It was a huge amount of responsibility to put on 7 and 8 year olds, but they enjoyed the challenge. Because these kids could all read and comprehend, we worked on deeper level comprehension like analyzing characters, making inferences and supporting them with evidence from the text, and critically evaluating the text. We also kept word lists of unfamiliar words for each book we read to expand our vocabulary.

I tried to choose interesting, high quality literature that they might not otherwise read, but that would also spark an interest that might encourage them to read more books in a particular series or of a certain genre.

Both groups did a mystery genre study using materials I created at The Teaching Oasis. The boys read a Hardy Boys book and the girls read Nancy Drew.

I also read my class My Father's Dragon and the boys chose to read the sequel as a small group together next.

Other books my 2 groups read are...

*The Littles by John Peterson (excellent for character traits!)
*Tornado by Besty Byars (great for practicing summarizing)
*We love Carole Marsh Mysteries
*We did lots of readers' theaters
*Poetry genre study
*Biography genre study

Teaching small groups is an area that I never felt I did well, but last year it all really fell into place and I felt extremely confident about it. CAFE gave me a good frame for what I should be teaching for comprehension and using the basal was a nice guide. Those two things came together to make a really nice "recipe" for me to teach reading in small groups.

I allot 20-minutes for each small group lesson. Most of the time, they take about 15-minutes. This gives me 15-minutes a day for individual conferencing or small strategy groups. If you've not checked out the CAFE page on my class website, please do because you can download all of the record keeping forms that I used for planning small group and individual conferences.

In the past, I just had a spiral notebook where I wrote notes for each kid. But the notes were not pointed and, often, when I saw that kid a few days later, I couldn't remember what we had really talked about! The record keeping forms I used this past year were very beneficial, organized, and structured in a way that required me to take specific notes... including a plan for the next time I met with a student, which I loved!

I hope all that information is helpful. Daily Five and CAFE have made reading a very urgent time in my classroom... and the amazing thing is that my students understand the urgency now too!

Thanks for letting me ramble... here's the good news... now, in exactly 48 hours, I will be at LaGuardia Airport in NY! On the ground! :)


  1. I started Daily 5 and Cafe last year and loved it. It looks like you teach grammar in context and was hoping you would explain more about that. I have tried to do that rather than teach it in isolated lessons but haven't gotten a good grip on it yet. Thanks!

  2. Again, thanks for the additional information. I am learning a lot from your blog and posts and am determined to mesh the basal and Daily 5.

    Now, according to your schedule you had your language arts in the afternoon with Math in the morning. Is there a philosophy for this on your part or did it just work better with your schedule?

  3. Christina,
    Have fun in NY. I'm not a fan of flying either, but I manage.

    Yearn to Learn Blog

  4. Booky4First~ I just had an exactly 100-minute uninterrupted block in the afternoon, so I put D5 there. I would prefer to do it in the morning, but my morning had an interruption right in the middle of it... and we have a very early lunch, so there just wasn't a good spot!


  5. I have used the phonics dance for several years and really love how much it helps my students be better readers, writers, and spellers!

  6. I am VERY interested in the Phonics Dance. I teach 2nd at a private school, and all my kids are at or above reading level (a few are reading on 3/4 grade level). So, would the Phonics Dance be pointless in my situation? Thanks!!

  7. Christina, thank you so much for answering my question and going into more detail on your small group instruction! I really appreciate you taking the time to explain more. Starting and planning for the first year of teaching is pretty overwhelming but your blog and website have been wonderful resources! Have a great time in New York!

  8. Hi Christina! I'm a new follower of your blog even though I've visited your website lots of times over the last couple of years.

    I found this post to be SUPER helpful...I am moving from 5th to 2nd grade and I have really wanted to do Daily 5 for the last couple of years but never took the plunge (last year I didn't because I changed schools and grades and it would've been too much). But I'm determined to do it this year...and we will be using Reading Street. I'm SO glad to hear how you are managing to use the basal along with the D5. I love everything you've shared so far. Thanks for everything you do :)

  9. Sunny~

    I'm so glad you found it useful! Daily Five really has been the way to go for me. I think you'll love it!

  10. Ashley~

    My high readers did well with it because it gave them confidence in attacking harder words. After I introduced the sounds on Monday, I would write words including those "hunks and chunks" on chart paper and we would work on strategies to de-code them throughout the week.

    It was really easy for me to differentiate this for my 1st and 2nd graders because, if the sound was "ing", I could do something as simple as "ring" for my firsties or as challenging as "inkling" for my higher kiddos... then we got to expand our vocab too and everyone got exposed to it!

  11. Hi Christina! I am moving from 5th to 2nd this year and plan on implementing the Daily 5 and CAFE! I checked out the Phonics Dance website and it looks awesome but which elements of the program do you use? The order form is long and I don't know exactly which parts would be the best! Thanks!!

  12. Hi Sarah- I have the CD and the yellow covered manual for The Phonics Dance. I don't think the CD is essential though... actually I only used it the day I got it... just to check it out.

    You'll like the program. It's super fun and the kids enjoy doing it. And the best part is, it makes a difference! :)


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